Sometimes the line between winning and losing can be so fine that the term “lucky team” or “lucky manager” is regularly used. Tyrone’s victory over Monaghan in the Under 21 Championship semi final according to a Monaghan friend of mine was a “lucky” win and he even reckons we will “likely” win the final too. I would not agree with him totally but I can certainly understand his viewpoint considering the chances Monaghan missed for goals in the first half and the opportunities they squandered for the equalising point late on.
I have to say that I don’t think Tyrone played as well as Monaghan over the hour and that overall Monaghan produced a better all round team performance than the Red Hands. In addition to that the best forwards on view all night were on Eamon Mc Eneaney’s side. Mc Eneaney and Mc Guinness in the full forward line and Malone at centre half forward caused all sorts of problems for the Tyrone defenders.
Elsewhere on the field Tyrone were outfought and out-thought by a very well prepared and well organised Monaghan side. They won the majority of ball in and around midfield and dominated the break ball in the same area. Defensively they seemed to know exactly how to cope with the threat from the Tyrone forwards and players who had performed so well against Down the previous week struggled to make an impact against a very committed Monaghan defence.
But was it bad luck that denied Monaghan a place in the Ulster final or was it something else?
In truth poor finishing and a lack of composure contributed to the two glaring goal misses in the first half while the chances for points late on to salvage a deserved draw were hurried and were taken by players showing signs of fatigue following a tough hour’s hard work.
Although they did not play all that well, Tyrone showed greater experience and composure when it was needed most and their key players made the difference in the end. The strength of the Tyrone bench also was hugely important in determining the outcome with both Ronan Mc Nabb and John Mc Cullagh playing central roles in the victory. It was a far from perfect performance and a long way from the standard of last week but semi finals are all about winning. Few people ever remember or care about how you make the final as long as you get there. Beaten semi finalists are long forgotten about when the final comes around.
Raymond Munroe will be delighted to have made it to the last two in spite of not playing all that well. He knows there is much more in his team and improvement will be required if they are to overcome Cavan. He might even consider his team and their win as rather fortunate but football is a like life at times in that you have to make your own luck. Lucky or not Tyrone are still in there fighting for the title and, no pun intended, with a bit of “luck” they might even win it.